Monday - after a lazy start to the day and a walk on the beach, I left Edinburgh and headed to Whitley Bay. Bearing in mind, I am the slowest vehicle on the road (fact!) it took a little over 3 hours to get there. But I had picked well, the campsite was on the cliffs looking towards a lighthouse. The usual embarrassment followed when I tried to park in a straight line into the designated tracks only to discover that a VW camper is too narrow to fit so with half a wheel on/ half off I had to give up. By this time, I was rather hot, sweaty and red faced and it didn't help that the guy in the motorhome next to me was watching the whole event without an offer of help. I have to say that this stand-offishness summed up the rest of my stay. I cannot fault the campsite at all (well maybe the funny smell in the toilets that didn't go away) but there wasn't a welcoming feeling that I was looking for. Skye got some great walks along the cliffs but by Tuesday morning I was itching to go.
On Wednesday I drove less than 3 hours to Brentwood in Essex. This time I ventured further out of the campsite along some very narrow roads to give Skye a proper walk. Here I had arranged WiFi so spent a lot of time surfing and Skyping my nephew in Holland! A much more pleasant stay but I was missing the sea so was keen to get moving on Thursday because I was heading to Folkestone!
Thursday's drive was a lot shorter. I had planned to visit Howlett's Animal Park in Cantebury before going to the campsite. I arrived at the park early afternoon and decided to have lunch there in the car park and wait a little while before going into the park (I didn't want to leave Skye in the van in the midday sun). When it was a little cooler, and I had my reflective shades on the windows, I ventured into Howletts reception. I was astonished to find that a day ticket costs £19.95! Yes, one adult for one day. They do a year ticket that costs the same price but is really only useful if you live in the area. I explained that I had travelled from Scotland and I only had a hour to spare so only really wanted to go in and see the gorillas but they were insistent that it would cost me twenty quid. To make matters even worse, their sister site (Port Lympne) cost a similar price and I could not buy one ticket to visit both sites. Luckily, I had arranged to meet one of the primate keepers at Port Lympne on Friday so I decided to give Howletts a miss. It's a shame really but I am Scottish and thrifty and could not justify that money for such a short visit. It's a shame they don't cater for half day tickets.
I had checked into the Folkestone campsite for 2 days. After a little mix up at reception (where the lady had me booked in for Friday/Saturday rather than Thursday - I know I was right because I had my spreadsheet with me and it is too detailed to be wrong!) I got a pitch within earshot of the sea. First thing, get my (very) patient dog out for a walk. I think Skye's tail sums up when I find a good campsite - she goes crazy for the sea and seemed at ease after day upon day of driving. Waking up hearing the sea was an added bonus. As was the fact that it was mild at night and I didn't have a frozen nose when I woke in the middle of the night.
You always know when you're abroad - for everyone there's a certain something that distinguishes abroad from home - sometimes it's the intense heat when you step off the plane, sometimes it's the smell of coconut suntan lotion. For me, it's the sound of crickets! It's a sound we're not used to in Scotland but they are definitely in the south of England. I wouldn't normally call this abroad but the fact that when I turned on the radio in the morning I got a French speaking station rather than radio 1 means I'm nearly there.
So the VW's arrived in Folkestone on Friday, I was glad to be here to witness it. In total there were 7 type 2's and 2 type 25's! Actually one of the type 2's was on the pitch next to me...I heard it arrive late on Thursday night - the "potato, potato" sound of the type 2 air cooled engine is the biggest giveaway. When it arrived, my curtains were closed so I had a sneaky look at my neighbour - yes, I was a curtain twitcher! I saw through the crack in my curtains a pair of hairy legs - bonus, it's a man next door! Anyway, because he had the pop-up roof up I couldn't see his face. Even when I dashed to the loo, I could not see his face. All night I was left to fantasize about this solo male in the next camper. Morning couldn't come quick enough. I was up early and saw that HE was already up and making breakfast. I STILL couldn't see his face because he was standing up making porridge. I ran to the loo again...rehearsing what I would say to him on the way back. As I approached his van I could see a shape sitting down eating out of a bowl but I couldn't stare so no more details were available to me. I opened my van door and heard this beaming Lancashire accent and grizzly tone: "Morning" - I turned to say morning back and there in front of me was a 60 year old bald man with a wispy white hairline! It unnerved me when he couldn't hear (or understand) my initial question to him - more evidence of his ageing years, if that was required. So much for my hero being another campervan owner. It turned out my neighbour was lovely and chatty and we got on really well. He gave me lots of advice of places to go and advice for the camper too (he's been driving his for 20+ years). Oh well.
Friday was a glorious day. The perfect temperature for me with a very slight breeze. But too hot for Skye. I couldn't take her to meet my contact at Port Lympe as planned at 10am because it was too hot to leave her in the van. Instead, I had a chilled out day at the campsite reading my book and watching the other VWs arrive (it isn't just me who to's and fro's a million times to find the right spot, I noticed that all camper owners do it!). I eventually went to Port Lympe at 4pm and managed to catch my contact Simon Jeffrey as he was leaving. Simon was so helpful and gave me advice about which course he would recommend I do and that I need to get loads more voluntary animal work under my belt. All this info is going to be processed when I get home before I make a final decision about what I do and where I do it but I thank Simon for his time.
On Saturday morning I drove to London where I was staying with my friends Pauline and Sonny for a couple of nights. I can't tell you how lovely it is to be with friends, get a lovely warm shower and a comfy bed for the night. On Sunday, we had a leisurely walk into Windsor where we had lunch in the gorgeous sunshine. Thank you to Pauline and Sonny for their amazing hospitality and phenomenal food.